Controversial government social care reforms would continue to limit the life chances of disabled people, while benefiting the children of wealthier homeowners, a disabled peer has warned the House of Lords.
Baroness [Jane] Campbell said that plans to fix the social care crisis were “the missing part of the jigsaw” of the government’s health and social care bill.
She told fellow peers that the bill “hardly touches on the desperately needed funding reforms” for working-age disabled people, and instead focuses on inheritance issues.
The crossbench peer, who has campaigned for more than a quarter of a century for disabled people’s right to independent living, said: “Under the reforms, the offspring of some wealthier homeowners will enjoy a more generous inheritance when they die.
“However, for disabled people, the bill takes them nowhere and continues to limit their life chances.”
A key social care measure introduced through the bill introduces a lifetime cap of £86,000 on how much anyone pays for personal care, but only counts their personal contributions, rather than those made by their local authority.
So far, the government appears to have made no other pledges on charging for care, other than allowing slightly more generous means-tested support, and introducing a significant increase in the amount of relevant assets (from £23,250 to £100,000) below which people are eligible to receive some financial support from their local authority.
Baroness Campbell pointed out that working-age disabled people make up more than a third of users of social care and account for more than half of local authority spending on social care.
She said that “persistent underinvestment” by successive governments had led to fewer disabled people having access to the support they need, and councils balancing their books by increasing care charges, which, she said, “effectively wipes out the funding that disabled people receive from the DWP to meet their extra living costs and avoid poverty”.
She told fellow peers: “The bill effectively favours wealthier homeowners over those with more modest assets and lifelong disabilities. That cannot be right.
“We know that government investment in social care for working-age disabled people will pay dividends.
“This bill provides the perfect opportunity to do just that, if – and only if – it is amended.
“It is simply unfair to place some people at greater economic disadvantage because they happen to be disabled.”
Another crossbencher, Baroness [Deborah] Bull, former creative director of the Royal Opera House, also criticised the government’s announcement last month that local authority contributions towards care would no longer be counted towards the cap on a person’s lifetime care costs.
She said: “They are likely to receive care for longer periods and therefore to accrue higher costs.
“They are also more likely to pay care costs that do not contribute to the cap, such as the cost of a personal assistant to enable them to work or enjoy social activities.”
She pointed out that Sir Andrew Dilnot – who chaired a commission on care funding, which was set up by the coalition government and reported in 2011 – had proposed a zero cap on the amount anyone developing an eligible need for social care before the age of 40 needed to pay towards their social care.
This was proposed, she said, “on the basis that they could not be expected to have planned for their needs, nor to have accumulated assets to pay for them”.
She told fellow peers: “If the government continue to reject a zero cap, how will they mitigate the risk of catastrophic care costs on those least able to bear them?”
The junior health and social care minister, Lord Kamall, said the government recognised that its amendment on personal contributions to the cap had been “considered controversial” but he said it was “necessary, fair and responsible”.
He said: “Everybody, no matter where they live in the country, no matter their level of starting wealth, will have the contribution they have to make to the cost of their care capped at £86,000.
“Those with lower levels of wealth will be far less likely to have to spend this amount, thanks to a far more generous means-testing regime that we will introduce.”
He promised that “nobody will be worse off in any circumstances than they are in the current system and many people will be better off”, and he said that the government’s reforms differed from previous proposals because they were “credible, deliverable and affordable”.
The bill, which has already been approved by MPs, passed its second Lords reading on Tuesday and will now proceed to its committee stage.
Picture: Baroness Campbell (right) and her personal assistant deliver her speech
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